tv Coca Colas 100 Billion Bottle... BBC News October 29, 2021 3:30am-4:01am BST
comes as it faces scrutiny over its impact on society. the name change doesn't apply to its individual platforms facebook, whatsapp and instagram. now on bbc news, panorama. the soft drinks industry produces a70 billion plastic bottles every year, designed to be used just once and then thrown away. a quarter of them are made by one company, coca—cola. nearly half of coke's bottles end up burned, dumped or littered. the problem has gotten so bad, and the problem is now visual. in the face of public backlash, coke have come up with a bold plan to tackle their plastic pollution problem. simply put, we want to get to a world without waste, so we want to collect back from the marketplace
every bottle and can, or the equivalent of every bottle and can, that we have sold. but can they deliver on their promises? ultimately, it comes down to shareholder value. - they want their pound of flesh. we visit some of the countries hit hardest by plastic pollution and find things are getting worse. coca—cola says they will collect one bottle for each bottle they sell in uganda, but they can never do that. is the world's largest soft drinks producer able to turn the tide on plastic waste? it used to be rare to see a coke bottle at the side of the road or washed up on a beach. in the 1950s, coke was sold in glass bottles. advert: here's refreshment you can enjoy quickly - and conveniently, and a place to put the bottle _ when you're through. you would get two cents back
when you returned the bottle. coca—cola would collect the bottles, wash and re—use them. when the beverage producers were selling refillable bottles, they had to pay for the costs of operations associated with getting the bottles back, washing them, refilling them, etc. voiceover: let's put 'em back in the rack, mac! - and then along came plastic. when single use packaging was presented to them, they realised that they could effectively externalise all of those management costs onto the municipalities. voiceover: you'll love them. and that is why it looked like such a good financial deal for them, and that's why they went for it. advert: these lighter - plastic bottles take pounds off your shopping load. by the 1970s, persuasive coke adverts were promoting the benefits of plastic. single—use plastic isjust
it is heartbreaking to see that a country like uganda, that we used to call "the pearl of africa", we are losing our rivers. we are losing lake victoria. uganda is losing to plastic waste. just 6% of plastic waste is collected for recycling here. when i go to our villages, i see the plastics. i go to the lake, i see plastics. i visit the rivers, i see plastics. it really makes me feel like we are losing our natural environment. plastic pollution is affecting the marine life. we have seen plastic killing fish. more than three quarters of everything coca—cola
sells in uganda is in throwaway plastic bottles. as you can see, we are finding coca—cola bottles. this is also fanta — a product of coca—cola. this is coca—cola once again. why should we see plastic everywhere? coca—cola. the problem is not littering. the problem is that there is more plastic than the waste system can cope with. panorama's analysis of coca—cola's own figures reveals that, globally, since 2018, 156 billion of their plastic bottles have been burnt, littered, or buried in landfill sites. nearly four years ago, coca—cola came up with a plan to tackle their plastic pollution problem and the growing backlash against it. launched with a slick social
media campaign, they called it world without waste. they pledged to make their packaging 100% recyclable, use 50% recycled content and, by 2030, collect and recycle one bottle or can for every one they sell. we'll design it to notjust be beautiful, but recyclable. it'll come in, we'll collect it, we'll chop it up, we'll recycle it, and we'll make more bottles. when i was there, you know, consumers hate excess packaging, and the packaging they hate the most is plastic. jake backus spent 16 years at coca—cola. he left two and a half years before world without waste was launched. brands spent a lot of money understanding their core target audience perceptions, attitude to life, what's important to them. coca—cola's own research shows that there is three times
greater brand love and trust if coca—cola was to do something meaningful on the environment. so the current chairman and ceo, james quincey, changed the mission of the company. so i do believe coca—cola is moving in the right direction. nearly four years on, are they on track to meet their world without waste promises? let'sjust break it down, coca—cola's world without waste pledges. so, the first one is on recyclability. coke's plastic bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate, or pet — one of the easiest plastics to recycle. and coke prints the word "recycle" on nearly every one. the truth is that coke packaging is recyclable. whether it's pet bottles, cans, cardboard, all those packaging items are highly recyclable, so that pledge is
effectively already met. but buried in the small print in coke's own world without waste progress report, there's an admission. coke says that their bottles are only recyclable where infrastructure exists. what happens in places where it doesn't? when you're living on a tropical island like samoa, it's very difficult not to become a lover of nature. i'm actually a coke drinker and i've always enjoyed coke since i was young. one of the reasons i was happy to drink coke is that it was always bottled in glass in samoa. people had an incentive to return them because there was a deposit, and so most glass was reused. in february, coke closed their glass bottling line
forfizzy drinks in samoa, and began shipping in thousands of plastic bottles. then, within days, to see more plastic littering of coca—cola and fanta and sprite. that was a shock, to be honest. there is no recycling plant on samoa. right now, coke contributes to one third of the plastic bottle waste here in samoa. marina runs a charity that collects recyclable materials for export off the island. the population here in samoa is only 200,000. we don't generate enough waste to have a recycling facility for plastic bottles here on the island. that would only work for developed countries and countries with more people. last year, marina's charity received a one—off $40,000 donation from coke,
but she says it's not enough. we really want to export a container out of samoa. but the freight is very expensive. so even if we do fill a container, we still don't make profit because we have to cover other costs, such as employing of girls to wash and process the plastic. we have yet to export our first container. we've never had any plastic leave samoa. coke has since set up a scheme to pay people $1 for each kilo of bottles — that's around 50 — they collect. we asked coca—cola for an interview, but they declined and gave written answers to our questions. 0n samoa, they say, "the decision to phase out glass was difficult, "with many complexities around the supply chain." they are working to ensure none of their products end
up in the environment and are launching an education campaign to encourage recycling in samoa. what about coca—cola's second world without waste pledge — to collect and recycle one bottle or can for every one they sell by 2030? are they on track to meet their target? the second pledge, that one is going to be much more challenging to achieve. that literally means getting 100% collection for recycling, and we know today they're not even close to it. it's not just coke. the entire soft drinks sector has a plastic recycling problem. most of coke's competitors — like pepsi, and the bottled water producer danone — don't publish their collection and recycling rates. coke do. their annual report shows last year they sold 112 billion throwaway plastic bottles —
1a for every person on the planet. but only 56% made it to a recycling plant. that means 49 billion bottles weren't recycled. the problem is that we don't have sufficient collection, and not only in the developing countries, but also in america and in asia. we need to collect the bottles before we can even think about recycling. rates of collecting pet bottles sold by all brands differ hugely across the world. germany is leading the way, collecting 98%, followed closely by finland, croatia and denmark. but these eu countries have strict targets. the uk plans to bring in the same targets, but not until 202a. it collects just 57%, and many poorer countries have far worse rates. we cannot recycle our way out of the problem, full stop,
because we are not going to recycle 100% of the material. unless you have a decent collection and management system in place, you can make it as recyclable as you want, but it's still going to end up in the environment. the philippines is coca—cola's oldest established market in asia. here, nearly half of all soft drinks and bottled water sold are made by coke. coca—cola is very popular in the philippines. it's a coca—cola nation. in this dump site, the majority of the waste that are here — and you can see — are plastic waste.
the philippines is clearly struggling with the plastic pollution created by the single use plastic. according to coca—cola, just one in five pet bottles sold here in 2019 were collected for recycling. we recognise it's unacceptable that our packaging ends up in oceans and landfills, in places where they shouldn't. half of what coke sells here is in refillable glass bottles, where their plastic bottles have been getting smaller. the latest edition is just 200ml. look at this — all these small bottles. this is the craziest creation of coca—cola. so this kind of product that we filipinos has been regularly bombarded with advertisements saying that "the coolest drink ever".
coca—cola is using plastic bottles that they claim as recyclable but are not being recycled. because there is no system of collecting it properly. we don't have enough manpower to collect all the waste. collecting bottles isn'tjust a challenge in the philippines. it's a crisis for many of the world's poorer nations. coca—cola says they will collect one bottle for each bottle they sell in uganda, but they can never do that. they can never achieve it. in uganda's capital, kampala, the local authorities collect only half the city's rubbish. there's a lot of plastic waste in the city. so in areas where people do not have a system
to collect this garbage, people resort to burning. plastic has pollutants which are directly toxic. dr kirenga says he is seeing more and more people in his clinic with respiratory problems. and his research suggests that one factor is the open burning of all types of plastic. air pollution can cause damage to almost any tissue in the body, but most of the tissues that are affected, the lungs and the brain. the rates of lung cancer are also rapidly increasing in uganda. in a population where people do not smoke that much, air pollution could be responsible. when rubbish is collected,
it ends up on open dumps like this. plastic bottles here are mixed with rotting food and disposable nappies. but there is a market for the bottles, and every day hundreds of informal waste pickers come to collect them to sell on to recycling middlemen. there is no—one in the world who wishes to work on the dumping site. people come here because they have no choice. you work ten hours and you earn, like, $1. these people collect plastics. most of them are single mothers, and they come with their children.
they are always here, seven days a week. i don't think coca—cola have the capacity to collect by themselves. they need these people. child labour robs kids of their childhood and of their education. but the reality is that if waste pickers were fairly paid, if they could afford childcare, if they could afford schooling, they wouldn't bring their kids to work. big plastic creators like coca—cola owe those
informal waste pickers a great deal. waste pickers are collecting their plastic. they're preventing it being burnt and dumped. in return, the companies need to ensure waste pickers can earn enough to provide for theirfamilies. coke have their own recycling plant in kampala. it can process 250 million bottles each year. but coke told us that for the past three years, it has not run at capacity because they couldn't collect enough bottles. the questions for coca—cola on collection are, will they stump up the investment to make collection systems work, and how are they going to treat the waste pickers collecting that plastic? coca—cola say they're working to help waste pickers, who are often some of the most vulnerable people, and have developed tools to help understand their economic conditions. they say their goal to collect
and recycle a bottle for every one they sell by 2030 is ambitious. coke's third and final pledge is to include 50% recycled plastic in their bottles as a global average. that means using much less so—called virgin plastic made directly from fossil fuels. let's look at the third commitment. the 50% recycled content target is going to be difficult. they have to find the material. coca—cola have made promises on recycled content before. since 1990, there have been lots of coca—cola pledges for recycled content, and they have failed on all counts. in 1991, coke introduced bottles made from 25% recycled plastic. just three years later,
they phased them out. then coke promised that every bottle on sale in america would contain 10% recycled plastic. by 2005, they achieved just 4%. a few years later, a new pledge — all bottles would have 25% recycled plastic by 2015. they reached just 7%. they've failed because they can't get the material, because we're not collecting enough bottles. since world without waste was launched, coca—cola have increased the amount of recycled plastic in their bottles from 8.6% tojust11.5%. if they carry on at this rate, coke will reach only 32% by 2030, instead of the 50% they promised. so why is coke's progress in increasing the amount
of recycled plastic in their bottles been slow? these are bales of plastic called pet, the plastic that we use to make drink bottles. this is a plastic coke bottle, but obviously this is in no state to be used, so the next stage, it gets cleaned up, sterilised and turned back into food grade material, and i have here the kind of material that we end up with. so this is flake, then that gets melted down, turned into pellets and turned into new bottles. so it starts off as a drink bottle, ends up as a drink bottle. waste management companies, like this one in kent, produce recycled plastic and sell it to brands to use in their packaging. at the minute, we're in a situation where demand for recycled material is really rising. a lot of companies make commitments about how they're going to increase the recycled content. that's great, exactly what needs to happen, but it increases demand. the issue is recovery
and recycling of plastic costs more money than buying virgin plastic. there's not enough food grade quality plastics coming back. you need it to be good quality and clean. recycled plastic that can be used for food and drink packaging is now a sought—after global commodity. in 2020, it was double the price of virgin plastic. like all soft drinks and plastic producers, coke are competing to secure a supply. so for now, nearly 90% of the plastic in coke's bottles is virgin plastic, and that has an impact on their carbon emissions. studies show recycled plastic produces 80% less carbon dioxide. the plastic issue and climate change, they're intimately linked. when we're making virgin plastic, we're
using fossilfuels. currently, coke's total plastics production emits six million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. that's the same emissions as the energy use of more than 700,000 homes. if they meet their pledge on recycled content, that would reduce emissions by a third. coca—cola say pet plastic does have environmental benefits — it's energy—efficient to produce and transport, compared to other materials. they say they are confident they can reach their 50% recycled plastic goal, but they must improve collection rates. but there is another way for coca—cola to go green. in brazil, coke is promoting a different type of plastic bottle. it's thicker, sturdier, and as the ads clearly show, it's designed to be reused over and over again, just like
the old style glass bottles. in brazil, they're investing in refill, and some other countries, like in south africa, which i think is a direct reaction to the public outcry about single—use plastics. coke say their refillable plastic bottles can be reused up to 25 times. and in brazil, they're replacing 200 million throwaway ones every year. but globally, coke sold 112 billion throwaway bottles last year, and just four billion refillable plastic ones. so why aren't they being used more widely? reusable bottles require a lot of investment. they have to collect those bottles. they have to wash them and put them on the market. unfortunately, they're not making that a universal system. they're still completely betting on single—use plastics and recycling.
nearly four years after making their world without waste promises, our investigation has revealed that coca—cola are struggling to make the headway required to meet their targets, and evidence on the ground suggests that more plastic coke packaging is being found littered than any other brands. we have thousands and thousands of volunteers from more than 50 countries go out, do brand audits, then we compile all that data to understand who are the global top polluters. in 2021, coca—cola came out on top for the fourth year in a row. coca—cola is an absolute master of greenwashing. greenwashing is pretending that something is green when actually it is anything but green. during the course of this programme, around six
million coca—cola bottles have been produced. more than 2.5 million won't be recycled. coca—cola said they have been clear that the challenges are great, and that through world without waste they are hoping to shift the mind—set from being the face of the problem to being the leader in finding solutions. they say they're making good progress, but have a long way to go. if coca—cola do achieve their goals, they will set a standard for the industry. coca—cola categorically can make a difference. | they have the scale, - they have the brand expertise, they have the capability to really drive change. i but critics think even meeting their pledges would not be enough. recycling is a good thing, but that's only part of the solution. the solution would be to turn the tap off. we really need to see governments step in. we need to see clear binding targets that force companies to reduce plastic.
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